Geoffrey Hill

English poet (1932–2016)

Sir Geoffrey William Hill (18 June 1932 - 30 June 2016) was an English poet and is Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford.



Interview, Telegraph Review, 2013

  • The idea that you write to express yourself seems to me revolting. The idea that you write to glorify or to make glorious the art of expressiveness seems to me spot on.
  • To say a poet is to be condemned or inaccessible because she invokes some fields of vision which we have difficulty in grasping; this seems to me a crass kind of bullying.
  • I try to make a distinction between enjoyment and joy. You are only prepared to enjoy what you already have a taste for; wheras joy is shocking and surprising.
  • I contrast hierarchy with hegemony , the juxtaposition of the real & surreal
    • Interview with Sameer Rahim, 'Poetry as History', Telegraph Review, 14 December 2013.
  • We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other.
  • I think art has a right—not an obligation—to be difficult if it wishes. And, since people generally go on from this to talk about elitism versus democracy, I would add that genuinely difficult art is truly democratic.
  • The idea that the intellect is somehow alien to sensuousness, or vice versa, is one that I have never been able to connect with. I can accept that it is a prevalent belief, but it seems to me, nonetheless, a false notion.
  • I think intelligence has a kind of range of sense and allows us to contemplate the coexistence of the conceptual aspect of thought and the emotional aspect of thought as ideally wedded, troth-plight, and the circumstances in which this troth-plight can be effected are to be found in the medium of language itself.
  • I think men and women who write poetry or write music or paint are finally responsible for what they do. They are entitled to praise for any success they achieve and they should not complain of just criticism.
  • Self-astonishment is achieved when, by some process I can't fathom, common words are moved, or move themselves, into clusters of meaning so intense that they seem to stand up from the page, three-dimensional almost.
  • It is to be hoped—I mean, I hope—that the poetry I have been writing since 1992 squares up to, takes the measure of, weighs up, the violent evasions and stock affronts of the oligarchy of fraud. I don't, even so, write poems to be polemical; I write to create a being of beautiful energy.
  • For this creating to take place (as it does from time to time) words have to be accepted as heirs of their forebears, as we are of ours. And in each case, what exists is often only a bankrupt inheritance; or the hinterlands of the unspoken.
  • An achieved poem is always beautiful in its own way, though such a way will many times strike people as harsh and repellent.


  • Did Péguy kill Juarés? Did he incite

The assassin? Must men stand by what they write

As by their camp-beds or their weaponry

Or shell-shocked comrades while they sag and cry?

  • The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy,

  • Charles Péguy, stubborn rancours and mishaps and all, is one of the great souls, one of the great prophetic intelligences of the 20th century.I offer my poem as my homage to the triumph of his 'defeat'.
    • Notes on The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy, in Collected Poems Penguin Books 1985
  • In memory of those things these words were born.
    • Author note to his Collected Poems 1985.
  • I have learned one thing: not to look down
    Too much upon the damned.
    • Ovid in the Third Reich
  • The years will not
    answer for what they have done, that much is
    certain. There is no shaking them, we
    might have foreseen this but refused.
    • Integer Vitae [1]
  • "One cannot lose what one has not possessed."
    So much for that abrasive gem.
    I can lose what I want. I want you.
    • "The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz" II. King Log.
  • Or say it is Pentecost: the hawthorn-tree,
    set with coagulate magnified flowers of may,
    blooms in a haze of light; old chalk-pits brim
    with seminal verdue from the roots of time.

    Landscape is like revelation; it is both
    singular crystal and the remotest things.
    Cloud-shadows of seasons revisit the earth,
    odourless myrrh bourne by the wandering kings.
    • The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy 5.21-29.
  • Primroses; salutations; the miry skull
    of a half-eaten ram; vicious wounds in earth
    opening. What seraphs are afoot.
    • "A Pre-Raphaelite Notebook" 1-3, Tenebrae.
  • I write
    to astonish myself
    • The Orchards of Syon XXIII.20-21.
  • I wish I understood myself
    more clearly or less well.
    • The Orchards of Syon II.17-18.
  • Shakespeare
    clearly heard many voices. No secret:
    voicing means hearing, at a price a gift
    • The Orchards of Syon II.4-6.
  • September fattens on vines. Roses
    flake from the wall. The smoke
    of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.
    • September Song [2].
  • Thus I grind to conclusion.
    • from The Daybooks.